'Too fat to fly' ordeal finally coming to an end

2013-11-21 08:16

(Andrew G Cowie / AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - He's been turned down by planes, trains and even a cruise ship in his quest to return home - and his family says it's because he has been deemed too fat to travel.

Now Frenchman Kevin Chenais' long and fitful journey is coming to an end.

Chenais, who weighs 230 kilograms, says he has been repeatedly refused transport over the past two weeks as he sought to get home to France from the United States. P&O Ferries offered to take him in his ambulance aboard the Spirit of Britain on Wednesday, the final hurdle keeping him from his home near the Swiss border.

"I am absolutely tired," the 22-year-old said as he slumped over in his mobility scooter just before being loaded into the ambulance.

Chenais' mother was outraged by the treatment her son allegedly received, saying he was discriminated against because of his weight.

"It's not the fault of my son to be big. He has a genetic illness," Christina Chenais said. "We are very happy to go home after this long, distressing and traumatic situation."

The odyssey began when British Airways refused to honor his return ticket from the United States, where he spent months receiving medical care for a hormone imbalance.

"When we talked about this problem with British Airways that Kevin was too fat ... (they said) abandon any intention of coming back to France," Kevin's father, Rene, told RTL Radio. "From the fact of his incapacity, his obesity, he was not considered to be a normal being, but more like a problem."

BA acknowledges that it refused to let Chenais board the plane, but said confidentiality rules prevent it from saying why. BA insisted that it does not discriminate against customers for any reason and that the airline provides the option of an extra seat to people who contact them with concerns about seat width.

"We respect the privacy of the customer so cannot comment on any changes in circumstance between arrival and departure dates," the company said in a statement. British Airways declined to say what the changes in circumstance had been.

Chenais said Carnival Cruises also rejected his request for a cabin on a trans-Atlantic voyage. The company declined to comment.

Virgin Atlantic airlines stepped in to fly him to London, where he had planned to take the Eurostar train home. But Eurostar refused to allow him on board because of safety rules governing travel through the Channel Tunnel: The high-speed train that connects England to France and Belgium requires all passengers to have the ability to be safely evacuated - and Chenais' obesity-caused lack of mobility made that impossible.

"This is a terrible situation," Eurostar said in a statement. "Our heart goes out to Mr. Chenais and his family who are understandably desperate to return home after being stranded in America."

Eurostar paid for the family's hotel room and worked with P&O to find a solution.

"It's difficult to imagine the frustration that this gentleman has gone through," P&O spokesman Chris Laming said in a statement. "But for us, it's very straightforward, as we are set up to carry people who have medical needs."

The ferry company took Chenais and his family across the English Channel to Calais on Wednesday, one of the last obstacles to his homecoming in the French town of Ferney-Voltaire, 740 kilometers to the southeast.

- Sapa-AP

Read more on:    air travel  |  travel  |  lifestyle  |  travel international

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside Travel

 
/News

#FindYourEscape with Traveller24

Your insider guide to exploring South Africa and the world...
 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.